EV charging points near me? Best apps for finding electric car charging stations.
For drivers that are considering buying an electric car, numerous questions arise. It always starts with finding a car that you like. This is then followed by other important queries such as costs, leasing options other things such as battery size and range. When researching battery size, drivers oftentimes then dive deeper into what a kilowatthour (kWh) is and how that relates to range. The whole aura surrounding electric cars is: new, outlandish and maybe even confusing to those that have no experience with an EV.
But there is one question that might be on every EV driver's mind that has yet to be solved - the problem of charging at public charging stations. More specifically, finding, unlocking and paying for public charging points. While there are numerous apps out there on the Google Play Store and the App Store, all of them do different things. There are apps for finding public charging stations, there are others for accessing them, there are others for paying for them and many others that do other things like reserve charging points, communicate with other drivers, route-planning etc. etc. and the list goes on.
As a preface, it is important to note that there is no single app on the market that will allow a driver to find every charging station in the UK and simultaneously allow the driver to pay for it. That is, until Bonnet came along. Traditionally, apps that allow drivers to see all charging points from all networks rarely reserved the right to process access and payment. That is something only the owners of the charge points could do, individually.
In turn, apps that process access and payments to chargers, only do so for a specific charging network (chargers owned and operated by a single owner company), meaning that coverage of other charging networks is sacrificed. A driver therefore will only have access to less than 15% of all UK charge points at the very best. Most likely a lot less, which means that there will be more than one app on a driver's phone. With Bonnet, we get rid of this disparity and aim to cover all UK charging points on a single map as well as provide access and payment to them. While we shamelessly believe that Bonnet is the best app out there (both by coverage, price and user experience), we will not be ranking ourselves in this list.
The list below is not exhaustive and is not a rating, but it's a number of apps that we like to use ourselves and that have received generally positive feedback from drivers. So, without further ado, here are the top apps for finding EV charging points near me:
The best thing about PodPoint's app is its simple UX. The worst thing about PodPoint's app is of course that it only lets you find and navigate to PodPoint chargers, which today make up ~10% of all public charge points in the UK. The design of app is also very simple and very user-friendly. It's not mind-bogglingly beautiful, but all functionalities are there and, operationally, it's quite good. It is important to note that most of PodPoint's chargers are free-to-use and are located in places like Tesco or Sainsbury's - but even then, they are only accessible with the PodPoint app. Overall verdict - one of the best EV apps out there, but is limiting as it is only intended for one network of charging stations.
Ubitricity is the second-biggest network in the UK and well-known for its lamp-post charging stations that can be found in London and some other cities in the UK. Ubitricity specialise in slow and fast charging, i.e. charging speeds that will charge a typical car in a couple of hours and they also employ a Pay-As-You-Go payment system that requires drivers to scan a QR code at the charger. Drawbacks once again include the fact that the Ubitricity's app covers only the Ubitricity network, which is ~12% of UK chargers. The app is however very simple and functional and does a good job of maintaining the status of chargers as well as being precise with the locations. The design could be improved, but otherwise the app is good - especially for Londoners.
Zap-Map is the go-to app for EV drivers in the UK when it comes to finding charging stations. The drawback is that there is no functionality to pay for these charging stations and the quality of charger-status data is not ideal. It is the largest charge point registry in the UK though, so if coverage is your main goal, this is a great app. For being the most-used app for finding public EV chargers though - we think that the design could really do with a makeover.
Design or 'looks' is always a subjective thing, so we tried to focus more on the objectively accessible side of design such as functionality and simplicity. Without a doubt, the Smoov app is slick. It looks good, searching for chargers is easy and starting a charge is straightforward. The drawback once again is that the app only deals with a single network, which is Shell Recharge - a network of rapid chargers, i.e. ones that can charge a car in <1hr. It is convenient that these chargers are accessible through the app, but it would be great if that functionality would be extended to more networks.
Plugshare, like Zap-Map only lets you find chargers, but not access them or pay for them. A lot of the data on Plugshare is submitted by users/drivers for the charging stations on there. This is both a curse and a blessing as users can often notify other drivers of convenient charging locations, but the quality of some of these entries is not that great. The coverage is quite high (not as great as Zap-Map's though), but once again the design is what's lacking here. While the app is really easy to use, the UI and some other choices to do with usability are often questionable.
And that's it! That's our subjective review of some of the most-used charging apps out there. As you can see, there are always trade-offs that a driver currently has to deal with. We personally don't know of any app that would provide country-wide coverage, would also allow you to pay for all of those charging points if desired and would look better than a 6th grader's PowerPoint presentation. That's exactly why we built Bonnet - the first app that unifies all of those things and gives drivers exactly what they need. You can sign up to our waiting list to be the first to try Bonnet and to also receive great discounts on our product.
The Bonnet Team